In Blood Beneath Ben Nevis Mark Bridgeman has created a fascinating collection of tales, events and folklore from around Lochaber, all focused around the uncanny, the disturbing, and the downright odd.
Despite the mysterious overtones, the newspaper clippings on the back cover give the sense that what you are about to read happened to real people in a very real past. The landscape and the places are recognisable, as are the characters, with many of the familiar names living on in Lochaber today.
Some of the stories may be well known, such as the Appin Murder and the Jacobite gold, but others are less so. In his Introduction Bridgeman calls it ‘a feast of tales involving murder, treachery, legend (often with a strong basis in fact), strange coincidence, fire, disease, clan warfare, smuggling, and, of course, rebellion’ and the collection undoubtedly delivers the range it promises. From historical clan feuds, nineteenth century murder cases between crofters, and Victorian ghost mysteries, to drink driving incidents in the 1920s and unexplained events on the High Street in the present day, above all the research seems to have been extensive. The author has drawn on archives as well as living memory, so it throws up perspectives and anecdotes that are likely to be new to many. The research on the monster of Loch Morar, in particular, creates a compelling argument, going from the first legends to present day sightings and scientific evidence - I for one will be watching the surface of the Lochs Morar and Lochy more carefully after reading this book!
And it does feel that he has left no stone unturned. There may be people that read this book and have their own memories and legends to add, or some might be inspired to go out into the streets and hills of Lochaber to find the evidence for themselves – maybe to take up the author’s invitation and search for the Jacobite gold! Overall, Blood Beneath Ben Nevis gathers together the evidence to shed new light on old stories, and record tales and memories that will be new to both locals and visitors to the area. It is definitely a recommended read for anyone who wants to delve below the everyday surface of Lochaber..
Reviewed by Kirsteen Bell